What did residents of the Western North Region do wrong?

Feature Article A portion of road in Bia West District of the Western North Region
A portion of road in Bia West District of the Western North Region

The Western North Region, one of six new regions established by a legislative instrument in 2019, is one of Ghana's breadbaskets. Yet, its roads and infrastructure are neglected, making inhabitants wonder whether they have sinned against Mother Ghana. The area, which is flanked on the west by the Comoe District of Ivory Coast, on the southeast by the Central area, and the north by the Ashanti, Ahafo, Bono East, and Bono Regions, has the most rainfall in Ghana, lush green hills, and good soils. There are various small and large-scale gold mining enterprises in the area. Agriculture is the primary economic activity of the majority of the population. Its endowments include Cassava, cashew, gold, cocoa, timber, plantain, rubber, and arable land.

As mentioned above, the cash crops provide foreign revenue for the country, leading citizens to assume that the government would reciprocate by developing the area. Unfortunately, this has not happened, and their roads are among the worst in the nation. The lack of a road network in this region and other development projects in this area of the country was the primary reason why chiefs, ably supported by their subjects, voted massively in the referendum that created the region. Still, aside from administrative blocks and a few structures built at Sefwi Wiawso, the regional capital, the lives of the residents have remained the same.

People from other newly created regions will say that the Western North is complaining too much because they are in a similar situation. Unfortunately, residents of this region cannot hold brief for others because an Akan proverb says, "se egya to wo ne woba ho a, wo pra wodee ansa wa pra wo ba dee," which means that when you and your child catch fire, you try to save yourself before your child. In this regard, the people of the Western North Common sense teach us that when we raise our hands in times of need, one is for helping others, and the other is for helping ourselves. In this spirit, we provide a helping hand to those in need, but you will agree that we need assistance as well, so we help ourselves first. With this example, the residents of this least developed area claim that they are not selfish but instead believe in the adage "each for himself and God for all."

The citizens of this area are thankful to the government for hearing their plea for a separate region and giving them certain development projects to improve their living conditions, but, as Oliver Twist once said, "We are asking for more." We request service providers in this area (I say "we" since I am from the region) to offer us the same quality services they give to the other areas. This region has contributed immensely to the national economy when it was part of the Western Region with Sekondi-Takoradi as its regional capital. For example, from the days of Glikstens Timber Company until John Butters took over, timber was transported on our terrible roads till now. Still, there is nothing nice to say about the roads in this area. The materials used to construct roads in this area seem of poor quality, leading citizens to believe that the government needs to be more concerned about their predicament. The Enchi and New Yakasi township roads, which link to many farming communities within the Aowin Constituency and also serve as a link between the food production areas of the Western North region and other parts of the country, have not seen any significant development since the creation of the region.

Imagine a cocoa road in the area (the Benchema-Adjoafua road), which President Nana Addo visited, cut sod with fanfare around September 2021 and is now impassable as I write. Due to the deplorable nature of a portion of the Benchema Junction and Adjoafua road, some vehicles get stuck in the mud when they get to the Nsinsim-Asempaneye barrier portion of the road. Passengers disembark from their cars to carry their baggage when their vehicles get stuck. Passengers, including ladies with babies and pregnant women, must walk from Asempaneye Barrier to Sefwi Nsinsim and vice versa before boarding another car to continue their trips. A journey that should have taken a few hours now takes over six hours to commute. Farmers and users are outraged by the state of the roadways.

The same is true for the Enchi, Aowin, and Suaman roads. When the time comes for Police officers to commute with suspects, they endure restless nights. Nurses have the same issue when the time is due for them to go for their vaccines because of the fear of an accident and the unwillingness of the drivers who utilize these routes to do so.

Residents of this region keep asking themselves what they did wrong to be treated as second-class citizens in the country. What bothers them is that the government is spending millions of cedis to build interchanges in major cities while ignoring roads connecting rural villages that produce cocoa, foodstuffs, and other resources that bring foreign earnings to the country. Nothing positive can be said about this young region's regional and district capitals. The potholes on the roads in the major towns can be compared to interlocking spurs or glen. The citizens are appealing to Ghanaian leaders to recognize their plights because no one enjoys ignoring their needs, no matter how little. Ghanaian leaders must remember that "if you neglect the boiling pot, it boils over and extinguishes the fire," as a Nigerian proverb goes.